After being formed in 1966 at Detroit’s Pershing High School, Enchantment signed their recording contract in 1969. This came about when the group won a local talent contest sponsored by the local Detroit radio station WCHB. However, it would be another eight years before the group would release their debut album Enchantment, which will be rereleased by BBR Records on 14th May 2012. After this, Enchantment would release five further albums between 1978 and 1983. The reason it took so long for Enchantment to record their debut album, was that they were determined to hone their talent, become more professional. To do this, they signed to Dick Scott’s Artists International, who had a track record of developing new artists. This saw Enchantment concentrate on honing their stage show, learning choreography while performing in clubs throughout Detroit. Then in 1975, when Enchantment played at a fashion show in Detroit, the were introduced to a man who’d play a big part in their future career Michael Stokes. He was a songwriter and producer, who wrote four songs for the soundtrack to Deliver Us From Evil. Enchantment were chosen to sing them for the soundtrack. Call On Me was released by Polydor as a single but failed commercially. A year later, in 1976 Enchantment made their big breakthrough, signing to Sid Maurer’s Roadshow Records, releasing three albums, Enchantment, Once Upon A Dream and Journey To the Land of …Enchantment. While this gave Enchantment their big break in the music industry, there would be a twist in the tale. Before I tell you what that is, I’ll tell you about the background to Enchantment, then the music on the album.
Now that the five members of Enchantment, Dave Banks, Joe Thomas, Emanuel “EJ” Johnson, Walter Jones and Mickey Clanton had signed to Roadshow Records they were ready to record their debut album, Enchantment. This comprised eight songs which Emanuel “EJ” Johnson and Michael Stokes had cowrote. Michael Stokes would produce the eight songs that would become Enchantment. Johnny Allen would arrange the eight tracks, while Alvin Taylor arranged the vocals. Recording took place at two studios, Sound Suite in Detroit and the Hit Factory in New York. With a band that included bassist Alvin Taylor, drummer Tony Robinson, guitarists John Tropea and Eddie Willis. Strings and horns came courtesy of the Detroit Symphonic Orchestra. Together, Enchantment and their band laid down the eight tracks on their debut album Enchantment. This was the next step in a musical journey that started ten years ago, when the group was formed.
Before Enchantment was released, three singles were released. First was Come On and Ride, released in June 1976, which reached number sixty-seven in the US R&B charts and number thirty-seven in the Disco charts. Gloria, one of the tracks synonymous with Enchantment reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts. November 1976, a month before the release of Enchantment’s debut album, Sunshine was released as a single. It reached number forty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B Charts. Gradually, it seemed, Enchantment’s popularity was rising, perfect for the release of Enchantment in December 1976. On the release of Enchantment, it reached number 104 in the US Billboard 200 and number eleven in the US R&B Charts. Overall, it seemed Enchantment’s decision to hone their craft before releasing an album had paid off. For a debut album, Enchantment had performed well, with three hit singles and a hit US R&B album. However, what does the music on Enchantment sound like? That’s what I’ll tell you.
Opening Enchantment is the first of the three singles released from the album Come On and Ride. It’s a driving slice of soul with a funky side. Straight away, the lyrics and song remind me slightly of The O’Jays’ Love Train. Emanuel “EJ” Johnson’s powerful lead vocal is impassioned, emotive and delivered with a real growl. Behind him the hard driving, funky rhythm section combine to create a disco love train. While the bass, bursts of blazing horns and train’s whistle blow, the rest of Enchantment add some soulful, soaring backing vocals. Guitars cascade, while the punchy drums and horns and prominent are key to the sound and the success of the track. It’s a glorious stomper of a track, that thirty-six years later, that’s timeless and irresistible.
Gloria, a track that’s become synonymous with Enchantment, was another single released from the album. It displays a really tender and beautiful side to their music. Here, they drop the tempo, with Emanuel delivering this ballad beautifully, bringing out the subtleties and nuances of the song. He’s accompanied by just the piano, slow understated rhythm section and percussion. The rest of the group add four part harmonies, while lush strings cascade and bursts of rasping horn punctuate the track. Everything about the track works perfectly, especially, the emotive, heartfelt vocal, understated, beautiful arrangement and some stunning harmonies from the rest of Enchantment. No wonder this track has become synonymous with Enchantment, it’s absolutely beautiful.
Dance To the Music is the complete opposite of Gloria. It’s fabulously funky with a the rhythm section laying down the slinkiest, funkiest groove, while braying horns and wah-wah guitars punctuate the arrangement. Dancing strings provide a contrast, their sound lush and sweet, while the lead vocal is dramatic, passionate and powerful. Meanwhile, the rest of Enchantment’s harmonies are soulful, subtle even, when compared to Emanuel’s lead vocal. However, it sits well with funk drenched backdrop, while the strings and harmonies provide a contrast. Together, they combine to create a fabulously, funk laden, mid-tempo track with a soulful side.
Sunshine is a track that has a dramatic sound straight from the get-go, with shivering strings and the rhythm section combining. However, when soaring harmonies enter, they signal a change in direction. This sees the track head in a soulful direction. This is thanks to some of the most heartfelt vocals on the album, as the lead vocal changes hands. They’re accompanied by the rhythm section, blazing horns and strings who create a dramatic backdrop, perfect for the heartache and regret in the lyrics. To me, this is one of the best arrangement on Enchantment, with some of the best, impassioned vocals. So good is this track, that after you’ve heard this track just once, you’ll forever by enthralled by its beauty and drama.
The title Hold On is quite apt, because it’s a case of fasten your seat-belts and enjoy the ride, with Enchantment fusing funk and soul. Here, the tempo is 133 beats per minute, with the rhythm section and wah-wah guitars combining with rasping horns and cascading strings. They provide a fast, furious and funk backdrop for Enchantment. Still their vocals and harmonies are peerless, the same soulful standard they’ve set so far. When their vocals drop out, the band give a funk masterclass, complete with sweeping, swirling strings. Then when Enchantment add soaring backing vocals that rise and fall with the strings, this is just the finishing touches to this six-and-half-minute Magnus Opus.
There’s a real change of style on My Rose, another ballad, which Enchantment deliver so well. With a subtle rhythm section and piano accompany him, Emanuel’s vocal is tender and full of feeling. Quickly, the vocal changes hands, while, the rest of Enchantment add impassioned harmonies. Lush, beautiful strings are accompanied by bursts of drums and blazing horns, which punctuate the arrangement dramatically. This adds to the emotion of the track, highlighting the beauty in the lyrics. Like, Gloria, this track proves that Enchantment are hugely talented purveyors of impassioned, heartfelt ballads.
Sexy Lady sees the funky side of Enchantment come to the fore. Waves of wah-wah guitars, rhythm section and sensuous backing vocals give way to Emanuel’s sassy lead vocal. Strings dance, swirling and sweeping, while braying horns join the fray, joining Emanuel and Enchantment’s soulful harmonies. With their band creating the funkiest and sassiest of backdrops, they add some seductive, sultry vocals. When this is all combined by producer Michael Stokes, the result is vampish, alluring and funk drenched track.
Closing Enchantment’s debut album Enchantment, is Thank You Girl For Loving Me, a track that reveals a really soulful side to the group’s music. As the track opens, Enchantment unite to deliver some impassioned, emotive backing vocals. Emanuel’s lead vocal gives thanks to the woman who loves him, accompanied by a rhythm section and guitars that sprinkle funk throughout the arrangement, while rasping horns and cascading strings combine soulfully. However, what makes this such a great track, is the heartfelt lead vocal and tight, beautiful and impassioned harmonies. This makes this not just the perfect way to close Enchantment’s debut album, but a beautiful and emotional one too.
It seems that Enchantment’s decision to learn their trade and hone their craft worked well. Their debut album Enchantment, is a highly accomplished, polished album, where Enchantment fuse soul and funk. Whether uptempo tracks or ballads, funky of soulful tracks, Enchantment deliver them with the requisite amount of emotion and passion. Emanuel “EJ” Johnson’s vocals bring the songs to life, with each of the songs subtleties and charms being revealed. Of the eight songs on the album, Come On and Ride, Gloria and Sunshine, the three singles are among the highlights on Enchantment. However, there’s much more to the album than three tracks. My Rose and Thank You Girl are slower, heartfelt tracks, while Dance To the Music, Hold On and Sexy Lady demonstrate the funkier side of Enchantment. For anyone who loves soul or funk, then this album is one that you really should discover. It’ll be rereleased on BBR Records on14th May 2012, along with their second album Once Upon A Dream. After this Enchantment would release just one more album on Roadshow Records, Journey To the Land of …Enchantment, after which Roadshow Records folded. This disappointment lead to Enchantment signing to Columbia Records, releasing two more albums 1982s Enchanted Lady and 1983s Utopia. Standout Tracks: Come On and Ride, Gloria, Sunshine and Thank You Girl For Loving Me.